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Wednesday, October 21, 2020


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Horizon Europe, the successor to the successful Horizon 2020 programme, which starts in 2021 and runs until 2027, is gradually taking shape. The European Commission's proposal for Horizon Europe is a research and development programme with a provisional budget of EUR 85.5 billion. What is the status and what can we expect?

Horizon Europe – a short update

This summer, after difficult and lengthy negotiations, EU Member States reached an agreement on the EUR 750 billion European Corona Recovery Fund. An important negative consequence of this agreement was that it will partly be at the expense of the Horizon Europe budget previously proposed by the European Commission. Whereas the Commission had set aside EUR 94.4 billion in May, only EUR 85.5 billion is expected to remain. This is a reduction of almost EUR 9 billion, more than 9%.

This is to the great disappointment of European universities, knowledge institutions and innovative businesses. Indeed, it had previously been agreed that science needs additional resources in the fight against COVID-19. Despite this, a significant part of the Horizon Europe budget went lost in the negotiations on the Corona Recovery Fund as part of the new Multi Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027.

When will Horizon Europe be launched?

The European Council formally adopted its position on the Horizon Europe budget on 29 September and submitted it to the Parliament on 1 October. Now it is the Parliament's turn. The expectation is that the Parliament will adopt its amendments to the Council's position in the week of 9 November. The first 'Horizon Europe Strategic Plan' should then be ready by the end of 2020. However, the European Parliament, which also has a voice in the budget, can block the reduction and reject the budget. When this happens, a conciliation period of three weeks will start on 17 November. In that case, a delayed start to the new Horizon Europe programme is a possibility.

Structure and budgets of Horizon Europe

The Horizon Europe programme for the period 2021-2027 will have a three-pillar structure (image source European Commission): 

  • Pillar 1 'Excellent Science' (indicative budget: EUR 23.097 billion) consists of the following components with corresponding sub-budgets:
    • European Research Council (EUR 14.861 billion)
    • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (EUR 6.288 billion)
    • Research infrastructures (EUR 2.149 billion)
  • Pillar 2 ‘Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness’ (indicative budget: EUR 47.179 billion) consists of the following parts:
    • cluster ‘Health’ (EUR 6.893 billion)
    • cluster ‘Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society’ (EUR 1.254 billion)
    • cluster ‘Digital, Industry and Space’ (EUR 13.429 billion)
    • cluster ‘Climate, Energy and Mobility’ (EUR 13.429 billion)
    • cluster ‘Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment’ (EUR 8.952 billion)
    • Joint Research Centre (EUR 1.970 billion)
  • Pillar 3 'Innovative Europe' (indicative budget: EUR 12.086 billion) consists of the following components:
    • European Innovation Council (EUR 8.752 billion): these include the popular EIC Accelerator programme and the Fast Track to Innovation grant
    • European Innovation Ecosystems (EUR 448 billion)
    • European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EUR 2.686 billion)
  • Section ‘Widening participation and Strengthening the European Research Area’ (indicative budget: EUR 3.181 billion) consists of the following parts:
    • ‘widening participation and spreading excellence’ (EUR 2.823 billion)
    • ‘reforming and enhancing the European R&I System’ (EUR 358 billion)

Five missions

In addition to three pillars, the new Horizon Europe also has five specifically identified missions which form an integral part of the programme. These research and innovation missions aim to provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the world. Each mission is a mandate to solve an urgent challenge in society within a given timeframe and budget.

The five missions with some of their objectives for 2030 are:

  • Adaptation to climate change, including societal transformation: Preparing Europe to cope with climate change disruptions
  • Cancer: more than 3 million lives saved, longer and better lives, a thorough understanding of cancer
  • Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters: cleaning of marine and fresh waters, restoration of degraded ecosystems and habitats
  • Climate-neutral and smart cities: 100 European cities support and demonstrate a systematic transformation to climate neutrality by 2030.
  • Soil health and food: at least 75% of all soils in the EU are healthy for food, people, nature and climate.

What do we already know about the content?

The Horizon Europe Programme is not yet final. At the moment there are so-called draft work programmes ('drafts') circulating that have yet to be finalised. Most of the programmes have already been extensively elaborated and are paying extra attention to the COVID-19 crisis.

What we already know (subject to reservation) in broad outline:

  • Cluster 'Civil security for society'. Topics include:
    • fighting crime and terrorism
    • border management
    • infrastructure protection
    • cyber security
    • a disaster-proof society for Europe
    • supporting security research and innovation.
  • Digital, Industry and Space" cluster. The themes are:
    • climate-neutral, circular and digitised production
    • a digitised, resource-efficient and resilient industry
    • leading data and computing technologies in the world
    • digital and emerging technologies for competitiveness and fit for the Green Dea
    • strategic autonomy in the development, deployment and use of global space infrastructures, services, applications and data
    • people-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies.
  • Climate, Energy and Mobility cluster. The themes are:
    • climate sciences and responses
    • cross-sectoral solutions (including 'competitive and sustainable European value chain for batteries' and 'smart and sustainable communities and cities')
    • sustainable, secure and competitive energy suppl
    • efficient, sustainable and inclusive energy use
    • clean and competitive solutions for all modes of transport
    • safe and resilient transport and smart mobility services for passengers and freight.
  • cluster 'Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment'. The themes are:
    • biodiversity and ecosystem services
    • fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems from primary production to consumption
    • circular economy and bio-economy
    • clean environment and non-pollution
    • land, oceans and water for climate action
    • resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities
    • resilient, including, healthy and innovative governance, environmental observation and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal.

The Horizon Europe system

Horizon Europe's grant system remains the same as that of Horizon 2020. For example, grants will be available for the following types of action:

  • Research and Innovation Action (RIA): funding of research projects addressing clearly defined challenges, which may lead to the development of new knowledge or a new technology (100% grant rate).
  • Innovation Action (IA): funding is more focused on activities that are closer to the market. For example, prototyping; testing, demonstrating and upscaling products or services if they are aimed at the production of new or improved products or services (70% subsidy rate).
  • Coordination and Support Action (CSA): funding covers the coordination and networking of research and innovation projects, programmes and policies (100% grant rate).

Want to know more?

We closely follow developments within Horizon Europe and we will inform you as soon as there are new developments. With a success rate of twice the market average in Horizon 2020, we will again be happy to be of service to you in the Horizon Europe programme. Do you have questions about Horizon Europe or would you like to know more about a specific design work programme? Please contact our experts by sending us a message at: 

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